Published on: October 15, 2015
This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.
Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy, coming to you this morning from Freeport, Maine, where I came to do a talk for the Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association.
I'm not a big shopper, but I do like Freeport ... maybe that's because LL Bean is my idea of a fashion designer. LL Bean also is my idea of a nimble, progressive retailing company - the way in which it has evolved from a catalog company to one that embraced the Internet, to one that is now judiciously opening bricks-and-mortar stores around the country, even in new markets like the Pacific Northwest ... well, this is a 21st century company that is embracing all challenges and opportunities inherent in the conduct of commerce today.
But that's not what I want to talk about this morning. I want to talk about boots. Duck boots, to be specific.
Now, I'm not a personal fan of the Bean duck boots. But I know a retailing success when I see one. LL Bean has been making these things for more than 100 years, and these days - for reasons of fashion that are way beyond my ability to comprehend - they are more successful than ever. Last year, they sold 450,000 of them, and were backordered almost all winter. This year, they expect to sell 500,000 - and my understanding is that if you order a pair right now, you'll probably get them sometime in February ... despite the fact that LL Bean hired dozens of people to manufacture them.
The thing is, the boots are made in the USA. Always have been. And while Bean could've outsourced the manufacture of the boots to China or Thailand or Mexico or some such place, the company decided not to, out of a conviction, I'm sure, that doing so would damage its essential value proposition. They'd rather the boots be right and local, and are convinced that customers would rather wait for them than get a pair of lesser value.
Giving up short-term sales and making customers wait is probably not the easiest decision in the world for a retailer to make, but I think it is the right decision. Nurturing and protecting the brand always is.
That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: